National park continues to create ripples in South Okanagan

Area politicians dispute figures from proponents of South Okanagan Similkameen national park

A Canadian helicopter flies over the Similkameen River

A Canadian helicopter flies over the Similkameen River

Two area politicians are backing B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake’s decision not to endorse a national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen at this time.

The comments from LIberal MLA John Slater (Boundary-Similkameen) and  Area B (Cawston) director George Bush of the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen came on the heels of a series public pro-park meetings in the region.

Those sessions were organized through the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network.

Slater was particularly upset with the economic-benefit figures given out at the meetings by CPAWS spokesperson Chloe O’Loughlin.

“I mean these numbers are all askew, they just don’t add up and I think that’s part of the problem, the numbers that are being thrown out there right now by CPAWS and other proponents just don’t make any sense,” said Slater, who agreed all the correct information should be made public before a final decision is made. “You could have a referendum with all the people in the Okanagan who are affected, but before you have that referendum you want to have all the facts, not all this hearsay and innuendo we’ve been getting for the last nine years.”

In her defence, O’Loughlin pointed out her numbers were based on the details taken from the seven current national parks in B.C. and not the current concept.

“In every community forum I made it clear these numbers were an average and would not be the numbers that necessarily represent this park and they’re not the numbers that would be relevant until much later in the process,” she said.

“So Slater is right, but the numbers may be high, they may be low, but even if they are 90 per cent wrong, they are millions of dollars better than what you currently have. You have no visitor spending with what you have right now. “

She, like everyone else, believes the details of the joint federal-provincial feasibility study done over an eight-year period starting in 2002 must be made public.

CPAWS is urging B.C. to re-engage in the park process to bring the matter to a conclusion.

The province withdrew its support for the park which has been nearly a decade in the making in December of last year. A short time later Parks Canada announced it would not proceed publicly with the plan.

B.C.’s support is necessary for a national park.

Meanwhile, in an open letter to the B.C. environment minister, the RDOS director for Cawston said it was during his campaign for office last year he realized just how opposed to the park residents were.

“It turned out that about 90 per cent of the locals did not want a park, and the few that did only wanted it because they didn’t want to see the land chopped up for residential lots,” he wrote. “I have attended all of Chloe O’Loughlin’s speeches on benefits of the national park and she states that only 21 per cent in our area ‘strongly’ oppose the park. This could be somewhat true, but she fails to say that the other 75 per cent are opposed to the park.”

In an interview Tuesday, Bush pointed out he campaigned against taking property out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for the proposed park, and believes those who elected him felt the same.

“I think we should be adding to it (ALR), not taking away from it,” he said. “In the big picture, I don’t understand why we would be spending millions or hundreds of millions of dollars to take away our food-producing land. It just doesn’t add up for me.

“All we would be doing is taking away from agriculture and giving it to tourism.”

According to RDOS chairman Dan Ashton, the board currently does not have a formal position, however, there will be a notice of motion coming forward at the April 19 meeting.

“I hope everybody (RDOS directors) votes to continue the process to make sure all of the outstanding issues are completed and the First Nations voice will be heard and the ranchers will be able to have formal discussions and the voices of the elected officials, tourism and businesses will be heard,” said O’Loughlin. “I would hope the RDOS would provide that leadership. It’s just unfortunate the province didn’t have the courage to make that decision to move forward.”

For his part, Slater questioned why the entire process has taken so long with so little progress to show for it.


Just Posted

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read